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297

northward, where the little plume of black smoke hanging
above the cut seemed to come no nearer: then, reluctantly, at
the sound of the still-distant whistle, they merged into the
expectant crowd on the platform.

At last, flecking off steam like spittle, roaring and grinding
on the polished steel of the rails, shaking the boards of the
platform with the vibrations of its mas?, scattering the
pigeons in a crazy, tumultuous flock, the locomotive pulled
past, and there, drawing to a stop, were the coaches, and with-
in them, pressed to the glass of the windows, those peering,
inquisitive faces that seemed, all of them, all alike under the
brown, wide-brimmed hats. The train stopped. The con-
ductor descended, somewhat warily, with his eyes fixed on
the crowd. Then, as though reassured, he planted his feet
firmly, wide apart, on the gravel, and surveyed the faces. But
no one was watching him. The people were watching a large,
red-faced man, in uniform, who seemed oblivious to them
while he descended the steps, as though the descent required
infinite care, as though it required all of his energies and
attention to trundle down, successfully, that enormous belly,
over which the tan cloth was buttoned and buckled to burst-
ing. Just as his foot touched the gravel, and he raised his
eyes, blinkingly and unresponsively, toward the people, the
small brass band at the far end of the platform drove into
the initial strains of " The Star-Spangled Banner." Blinkingly,
the large man saluted, and the younger man descending
behind him paused on the last step and saluted.

As the music exploded on its last note, a man separated
himself from the crowd and rushed toward the officer, his
hand extended in greeting and his smile exposing the liberal
amount of gold among his prominent teeth.

"Major Pottle?" he inquired loudly.

The large man nodded, and said, " Yes, sir."

" I'm the mayor," the other man explained, " Mayor Alton,
to be exact, and I welcome you and your men." They shook
hands, and the mayor, leaning confidentially and insinuatingjly
toward the large red-faced man, began to talk earnestly